Do you think that math teachers expect less academically from girls than boys? That is one of the questions that I asked Sharon Lozano, part-time lecturer at the University of Texas and Curriculum Developer at Girlstart, in a recent interview. Girlstart is a non-profit organization in Austin, Texas that encourages and empowers girls in mathematics, science, technology, and engineering.
Recently Sharon Lozano received the "2001 Woman of the Year Science and Technology" award, presented by the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA), in front of hundreds of exceptional women who have made a positive impact in the Austin area.
Sharon graduated from Carrizo Springs High School in Carrizo Springs, Texas. Carrizo Springs is 120 miles southwest of San Antonio, Texas. Sharon then attended the University of Texas. While at the university she earned two degrees, a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and a Master of Science in Computational and Applied Mathematics.
Sharon considers herself Latino. Her mother is from Mexico City, and her father is Latino but from Victoria, Texas. Sharon likes to read, listen to music, and run. She is fairly active with her church. She loves to spend time with her family and friends. She also likes to travel. Her travel goals are to visit all the pyramids built by ancient civilizations.
Sharon loves both of her jobs. She has been working at Girlstart for a year and a half and teaching at the University of Texas for a year. Both have been very fulfilling in different ways. Sharon likes Girlstart because it allows her to tap into her scientific side and bring mathematics and science concepts to middle school girls. She also likes working at the University of Texas because she enjoys working with college students and trying to make pre-calculus exciting to them. What motivated Sharon to pursue a career in mathematical sciences was that she always enjoyed mathematics, but more than that she loved to see where it could be applied. One of the most frequently asked question by her students is, "When am I going to use math in the real world?" She loves to answer that question because math is everywhere. At Girlstart Sharon develops the curriculum for their programs, which include school programs, Saturday camps and summer camps. Sharon does a lot of research for the lessons that Girlstart creates. She also trains people who teach Girlstart programs. Sharon uses new technology at Girlstart everyday, and part of Girlstart's mission is to find ways to empower girls in technology. If you would like to have a career in mathematical sciences Sharon said, "You should get a lot of experience to find out what you really want to do. The best way to do that is to talk to people in that field—especially professors, or people who work at companies."
Sharon has always felt like males dominate in math and science academically. In her graduate program in Computational and Applied mathematics, there were 5 women (3 were American) out of 35 students. What could be done in classrooms to discourage gender differences is that teachers should be mindful of how they interact with both girls and boys. Their language should be the same toward both, and both should be encouraged and called on equally. But also, mathematics and science should be presented to them in a fashion that interests them by using an example that appeals to both genders. Sharon says one way to increase female participation in math is to show them where math relates to things they care about. Another way is to show girls women in a variety of careers that use math other than a math teacher. When I asked Sharon, "Do you think it would help females to do better academically in all female math and science classes? She replied, "Yes and no. I think boys and girls can learn a lot from each other. In the real world most jobs are not all male or female. We need to learn a communicate with each other. I think good compromise would be days when genders are separated and other days when they work together."
Now back to the question I asked Sharon in the beginning, "Do you think that math teachers expect less academically from girls than boys?" Sharon answered "Yes and no. I think boys are more outspoken and more disruptive, so when they do anything good they are highly praised. Girls tend to be quieter — such behavior is expected so their praise is not as spectacular. I think these behavior differences lead to different academic expectations."
Sharon Lozano serves as an outstanding role model for girls, and her passion for education and community service shines in every aspect of her life.
About the author: My name is Sarah Elizabeth Overton. I am a sixth grader at O. Henry Middle School in Austin, Texas. I enjoy technology and during my spare time I love to be using my computer. I also enjoy building robotic cars with Lego Mindstorms, using my microscope that is connected to my computer to look at gross things, and surfing the net to look at the latest cool clothes.
Some essays have been modified for posting on the AWM web site.